Once sequestered to the pastoral landscape, chickens (and bees and even goats) are coming home to roost in the city. In exchange for fresh eggs, honey or milk, urban animals can be rewarding and relatively easy to keep. They just require some planning, commitment and care. Portland's rules for keeping animals are enforced by Multnomah County. It tends to make things a bit confusing, but if you are interested in turning your backyard into an urban barnyard, here are some things you should know:
Do I need a permit for my animals?
- You do not need a permit if you keep a total of three or fewer chickens, ducks, doves, pigeons, pygmy goats or rabbits. You can mix and match however you like, as long as you do not exceed the total of three critters.
- If three is just not enough, and you want more animals, it's time to apply for a permit (see next section on how to apply for a permit).
- If you are interested in keeping turkeys, geese, peacocks, cows, horses, burros, sheep, llamas or bees, no matter how many of these animals, you need to apply for a permit. Bee and pigeon permits include additional procedures along with the standard animal permit. See below for details.
How do I apply for a permit?
Obtaining a permit is a relatively easy process; you just need to follow a few steps before turning your application in to the County:
- Let your neighbors know! The permit requires notification of all property owners and residents within 150 feet of your property lines.
- Make sure that you meet the specified animal facility requirements. These requirements are meant to ensure you have the infrastructure to care for your animals and keep them in your yard (minimize wild goose chases around the neighborhood).
You are in great shape if your planned facility:
- is in good repair.
- won't disturb neighbors.
- has absorbent ground cover (that can be replaced as often as necessary to suppress odor).
- has a secure enclosure.
- provides your animals with adequate lighting and ventilation.
- is 15 feet from residential buildings (not including your own).
- feeding practices won't attract unwanted rodents.
Additional County recommendations:
- For hoofed or louder animals your facility should be 50 feet from residential buildings.
- The county suggests that you work with them on the permitting process before building your facility (if it isn't built yet) to minimize repair costs.
- Specified Animal Facility Permit is $31.
- The fees are non-refundable and payable by check made out to Multnomah County or by money order.
- Take a breath, the hard part is over. You are almost ready to submit your form. Your permit application should be filled out and signed. All that's left are permit fees. These are one-time only fees.
Mail or drop off application:
- Multnomah County Health Department Vector and Nuisance Control
5235 N. Columbia Blvd., Portland, OR 97203, (503) 988-3464
What about bees?
If you plan to keep four or less hives of honey bees (not including mason bees) and/or four or more pigeons, you have to follow some additional steps:
- Notify all neighbors within 150 feet of the hive or proposed facility.
- Proposed hives must be a minimum of 15 feet away from "any public walkway, street or road, or any public building, park or recreation area, or any residential dwelling" (not including your own).
- Hives that are also less than 150 feet from any streets, parks, houses, etc. must be "protected by a six foot hedgerow, partition, fence or similar enclosure."
- Specified Animal Facility Permit for Beehives is $12.00. Send in your application and check/money order to Multnomah County Health Department Vector and Nuisance Control
- If you would like five or more hives on your property you also must register them with the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
What is not allowed in Portland city limits?
- Pigs or other swine, unless the pig is a Vietnamese Miniature Pot-Bellied Pig with shoulder height 18 inches or less and weighs no more than 95 lbs. No more than three pigs can be kept at any one address.
- Roosters (male chickens).
What do I do once I have sent in my permit application?
- Before welcoming your animals to their new home, you must wait until your permit is actually approved. Multnomah County Vector and Nuisance Control will contact you and come by for an inspection. They will either approve of your permit or let you know any adjustments you need to make.
I have received my permit, now what?
- Once you receive your permit in the mail, you are ready to embark on your urban farm adventure. Remember to maintain your animal facilities. The County won't conduct any further inspections unless they get a complaint, so keep it clean!
Check out these online resources for tips and ideas of how to raise your urban animals:
- Blog on Chickens
- PDX Backyard Chix listserv
- City Chickens
- Urban Chickens
- Oregon State Beekeepers Association
- Organic Gardening and Homesteading
Where can I find the original City of Portland code on animals?
- The full city code is available online. Animal regulations are detailed in Title 13.
- More information on animal issues and regulations can be found by contacting or visiting the website of the Multnomah County Health Department Vector and Nuisance Control; (503) 988-3464; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have any animal resources that you think would be helpful for other city animal stewards?
- Send them to us at email@example.com.